ISIS fighters returning from Iraq, Syria may unleash Europe attacks: Cops

ISIS may step up attacks in Europe as it loses ground in the Middle East and foreign fighters return to their home countries, a new report from Europol warned Friday.

The continental law enforcement agency said that car bombs, extortion and kidnappings could be employed by networked groups of fighters or lone wolf attackers who have pledged allegiance to the group or have been inspired by it.

However, attacks using guns, knives and vehicles remain more likely given the easier access to such weaponry, according to Europol. Attacks on major infrastructure such as power stations and nuclear facilities also remains unlikely given ISIS' preference for "soft targets," it added.

22 PHOTOS
Iraq's oldest cemetery growing quickly due to ISIS war
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Iraq's oldest cemetery growing quickly due to ISIS war
The Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", is seen in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Tombs are seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Decayed dome is seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Mourners carry the coffin of their relative during a funeral in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A boy digs a grave at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Men bury a body at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman holds containers which are used for washing the graves at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
People visit graves of their relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man holds empty containers that are used for washing graves at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
An undertaker smokes shisha at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman prays inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A municipality worker pulls a trash container at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman takes a selfie inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
People line up to collect blessed water inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A woman washes the grave of her relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman is seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Residents visit the graves of their relatives at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man mourns on the grave of his relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man prays inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man reads verses from the Koran at the grave of his relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Tombs are seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
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It is possible ISIS will "consider the use of chemical and/or biological weapons" in Europe while it was conceivable that homemade, commercial or military explosives placed in improvised devices could be used at some stage, according to the report.

"We have to be vigilant, since the threat posed by ... [ISIS] and returning foreign fighters is likely to persist in the coming years," said the E.U. Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove in a statement accompanying the report. "These people are trained to use explosives and firearms and they have been indoctrinated by the jihadist ideology."

ISIS is under increasing pressure in Syria and Iraq, where its last major stronghold, Mosul, is under assault by a coalition of U.S.-backed forces.

The Europol report also warns that some intelligence services indicate that several dozen people who are directed by ISIS and have the capability to "commit terrorist acts" may currently be in Europe and that other groups such as al Qaeda also pose a threat.

The report added that an increase in arrests and court proceedings related to terrorism "of a jihadist nature" was proof of the high priority that had been given to counter-terrorism across the continent.

European nations have been on alert in the wake a series of attacks attributed to ISIS or its followers across the continent in recent years. Terrorists have already carried out attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey this year.

14 PHOTOS
Battles with ISIS and conditions in Mosul
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Battles with ISIS and conditions in Mosul
A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer /File Photo
Kurdish Peshmerga forces sit in a military vehicle on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces takes his position in a military vehicle on the southeast of Mosul , Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Kurdish Peshmerga forces ride on military vehicles on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A fighter from the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), mans an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the rear of a vehicle in Mosul July 16, 2014. The banner on the bridge reads: "Welcome to the State of Nineveh; There is no God but God and Mohammad is the Messenger of God". REUTERS/Stringer /File Photo
Kurdish Peshmerga forces gather on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Kurdish Peshmerga forces ride on military vehicles on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Displaced people approach the Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 23 : Iraqi people who fled from their villages due to Daesh attacks are seen at the Dibege refugee camp in Mahmour region of Mosul on August 23, 2016. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi man holds his national flag while civilians stand in the the street on August 24, 2016, as Iraqi forces took key position in the centre of Qayyarah, officials said, on the second day of an operation to recapture the northern town from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Qayyarah lies on the western bank of the Tigris river, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, the Islamic State group's last major urban stronghold in Iraq. / AFP / MAHMOUD SALEH (Photo credit should read MAHMOUD SALEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Kurdish female fighter Haseba Nauzad (2nd R), 24, and Yazidi female fighter Asema Dahir (3rd R), 21, aim their weapon during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq, April 20, 2016. When Islamic State swept into the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in 2014, a few young Yazidi women took up arms against the militants attacking women and girls from their community. The killing and enslaving of thousands from Iraq's minority Yazidi community focused international attention on the group's violent campaign to impose its radical ideology and prompted Washington to launch an air offensive. It also prompted the formation of this unusual 30-woman unit made up of Yazidis as well as Kurds from Iraq and neighbouring Syria. For them, only one thing matters: revenge for the women raped, beaten and executed by the jihadist militants. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah SEARCH "WOMEN NAWARAN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Female Peshmerga fighters hold their weapons at a site during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq, April 20, 2016. When Islamic State swept into the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in 2014, a few young Yazidi women took up arms against the militants attacking women and girls from their community. The killing and enslaving of thousands from Iraq's minority Yazidi community focused international attention on the group's violent campaign to impose its radical ideology and prompted Washington to launch an air offensive. It also prompted the formation of this unusual 30-woman unit made up of Yazidis as well as Kurds from Iraq and neighbouring Syria. For them, only one thing matters: revenge for the women raped, beaten and executed by the jihadist militants. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah SEARCH "WOMEN NAWARAN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Smoke rises after airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in a village east of Mosul, Iraq, May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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Related: German Military, Police to Team Up Amid Fears of ISIS Attack

Earlier this month, the State Department issued a warning to U.S. nationals to exert caution at festivals and holiday markets in Europe.

In October, meanwhile, U.S. officials told NBC News that the military campaign to push ISIS out of its stronghold in Mosul may lead to hundreds of battle-hardened fighters returning to Europe where they could launch terrorist attacks against allied and U.S. interests.

Europol did not specify how many ISIS fighters it estimated could make their way back to Europe. About one-fifth of ISIS's total number of fighters, or 3,700 people, are residents or nationals of Western Europe, including 1,200 from France alone, according to a study last year by King's College London.

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